Category Archives: Monthly Roundups

Slime Time: April ’21 Roundup

Gosh I’m tired!

On AniFem:

Dragon Goes House Hunting – a tale of fantasy real estate

Let’s Make a Mug Too! – a surprisingly poignant hobby show about ceramics

I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level – a reincarnation isekai about a witch who accidentally becomes the strongest person in the world while she’s gardening

The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent – a power fantasy about instantly being good at your (magic) job

Winter 2021 Recommendations – looking back on the best of the previous season and singing the praises of Laid-Back Camp and Otherside Picnic

Book chats: Gideon the Ninth devours my brain, The Starless Sea thoroughly charms me.

And also! I helped edit the absolutely lovely Errant Night which is now officially out in the world and ready for purchase! Do you like space-faring adventures that double as poetic, moving musings on grief? Give it a shot – I promise it’s worth the interstellar ride.

Cool Jams

A dip into some Tumblr Folklore: a web series that never got made (or did it?), a study in misplaced enthusiasm, and a trip back to the conversation around queer representation circa 2014.

Animation is just really cool!! Here is a dip into the technique of “smears”, a trick that originated to give a greater sense of fluid movement to hand-drawn cartoons but is also making an appearance in video games.

One Garfield archivist’s quest into the orange cat’s weird pop cultural past, from the lost microfiche where the drafts that became the comic live to the (haunting? Charming?) tradition of Garfield Tourism in the heart of the US. Genuinely fascinating and I cannot help but be endeared to this fellow’s devotion.

Wonder Egg Priority: Traumas and Tribulations – Patrick explores how the often hard-to-watch show depicts the messy, nonlinear nature of dealing with trauma with a nuance that resonated heavily with them.

The Earnest Elfin Dream Gay – an essay from a couple of years ago about the (possible) gay adolescent answer to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a character type the author has noticed popping up to represent a new and specific fantasy in YA romance.

Why Seven Seas Altered Its Light Novels – a look into the recent controversy surrounding the manga publisher’s novel translations, detailing the complicated history of “adapting” texts for English-language audiences (read: American sensibilities) and the tensions between fans, freelance translators, and the editors who have the final say.

What Makes Melty Blood So Important? – though often memed-upon, the Melty Blood fighting game is an emblem of a weird yet golden era of anime fandom, and a rare peek into the world of Type-Moon before the juggernaut that is Fate even existed.

Zombie Land Saga: Idol Anime for Non-Idol Fans – Mercedez explores the appeal of everyone’s favourite zombie popstar series, and how it works as both a love letter to and a critique of the idol industry in a way that many other shows do not.

Wandering Thoughts on Wandering Son – a retrospective musing on the landmark trans anime series from a first-time watcher (and a lament that this is still kinda the best we have).

A recommendations thread of manga with trans characters:

And, finally, for this month’s song-on-repeat, this banger that starts slow and gradually transforms a dive bar in the middle of nowhere into an extravagant gay club with the power of ambition and vibes:

And that’s all they wrote – see you soon for more!

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Non-binary Finery: March ’21 Roundup

Me setting off to buy floral button-down shirts

You know what, I’ve been sitting here trying to come up with something poetic or funny to say to sum up March, but sometimes a month just passes by with relative peace and ease, and that’s worth celebrating even if it doesn’t generate many words. Here are some blog posts!

On the blog:

Something Like Euphoria – a big weird post about the big weird (joyful) experience that is gender

Otherside Picnic and Groundbreakingly Goofy Queer Fiction – must a story with queer characters be “good art”? Is it not enough for a pair of lesbians to fight monsters while making silly faces?

On The Anime Herald

Together, Alone: How Laid-Back Camp Shows Companionship Through Technology – far from buying into the Nature vs. Tech dichotomy, my favourite camping show instead explores how smartphones and instant messages can be used to enjoy The Great Outdoors and build relationships

On Anime Feminist

Tropical Rouge! Precure – Episode 1 – the new Precure series bursts onto the scene in a splash of colour, making me question the ethics of selling makeup to children but appealing deeply to my inner seven-year-old’s Mermaid Phase

Bookchats: Gideon the Ninth punches through my reading slump.

Content round the web

A detailed breakdown of what exactly is so wrong with Sia’s directorial debut—here called “vanity project” as it really ought to be. Jessie discusses the problems creators can face when attempting to represent a marginalised group they do not belong to, particularly if they want to represent the entire group allegorically through one character instead of treating that character like an individual person.

A tour through the history of themed restaurants, from haunted cabarets in Bohemian Paris to American family diners banking on racist caricatures to the modern pop-up fandom eateries of today.

Spy x Family: Disarming the Myth of the Nuclear Family – in this comedy series, a spy, an assassin, and a telepath masquerade as the mid-century ideal of the perfect wholesome family, revealing the whole thing as a farce in the process.

America’s Sweetheart: Thoughts on WandaVision – an analysis of where the MCU’s first TV show falls down, chiefly in how it bends backwards to make its protagonist “likeable” at the expense of letting her be morally ambiguous, messy, and interesting.

Wellness for the Self, Wellness for the World: Healin’ Good Precure – a review of 2020’s Precure offering and how it tackles issues of climate change and self-care with nuance despite (or maybe because of) its kid-friendly delivery.

Yuri!!! on ICE and the Revolutionary Portrayal of Queer Slavic Representation – a personal essay about how the positive depiction of Viktor subverts both the stereotypes that usually follow Russian characters around in media, and Russia’s cultural homophobia.

Archivists are Trying to Chronicle Animal Crossing: New Horizons‘ Incredible First Year – there’s no denying that AC:NH was a big part of a lot of people’s pandemic experience, but how does one keep a historic record of a video game like this?

Why Do The Oscars Have a Limited View on Anime? – Best Animated Feature is usually a “lazy” judging category reserved for the latest Disney/Pixar blockbuster, with the occasional token nod to Studio Ghibli. With more anime films coming out in US cinemas, is there potential for a shift?

Anime Versus Rural Australia: A Retrospective – a memoir about a writer from Wagga Wagga discovering Pom Poko and FLCL as a kid, and finding an unexpected resonance between both works and his feelings about his small-town childhood.

March’s “song that’s stuck in my head”

Feeling devious? Looking glamorous? Perhaps… mischievous? And polyamorous? Bop along to this one with me.

And that’s a wrap! I’m back in Premiere Review Town next month, so there will be no big blog posts until May. Take care, everyone!

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February ’21 Roundup

At the end of January, I travelled to the south coast of New South Wales for a few days – a traditional holiday haunt for my family, but one I hadn’t been able to visit for two years owing first to bushfires and then to pandemic conditions. Feeling safe by the sea brings a certain amount of peace, I can tell you that much. And the trip also provided some surreal views that I’m going to take as omens or metaphors for the year ahead: whole mountainsides covered in blackened trees sprouting new growth. Clumsy, fuzzy baby greenery was curling out of burnt tree trunks all along the drive in. It was a frightening reminder of the loss that area had endured, but also kind of hopeful. At the risk of being sappy (who am I kidding? You follow this blog, you know I’m a massive sap) I’m going to take that energy on board. Our bark is blackened, but we’re going to grow back.

On the blog

A Big OI’ Pile of Anime Recommendations (2020) – a slightly belated list of my favourite series I watched in 2020, from sweet sapphic romances to murdery mind games.

Queer YA Spotlight: The Lost Coast – a dreamy, witchy, nonlinear book about magic, finding your place, and the deep and ancient terror of trees.

On AniFem

Yuri Manga Variety Hour – I make my podcasting debut swapping recommendations of comics where ladies fall in love! Now with a transcript for easy access!

High-Rise Invasion – Episode 1 – a schlocky, fan servicey sci-fi show with the fastest damsel-to-badass character development I’ve ever seen

Once more, I am reading books: falling in love with The Falling in Love Montage, satisfying the place in my brain where Until Dawn lives rent-free with Even if We Break, having loads of ghosty fun with Cemetery Boys, and still chugging diligently through Otherside Picnic.

The Webzone

What in the goddamn hell did they do to Winx Club? Is this the “dark and gritty magical girl” concept finally making itself known in European/American media?

We’ve definitely all come across the twee, colourful, minimalist human figures quickly becoming known as “the corporate art style”, but why exactly does it feel so soulless, and how does it differ from other flat and minimalist art styles of bygone eras?

Madoka, Wonder Egg Priority, and the Future of Late-night Magical Girl Shows – speaking of dark and gritty magical girls… a decade on from Madoka Magica, Adam Wescott ponders whether its lasting legacy is less in the “cruel things happening to cute girls” knockoffs and more in surreal psychological adventures like FLIP FLAPPERS and Wonder Egg Priority.

Blue Flag vs. Our Dreams At Dusk: A look at LGBT+ Representation and its Audience – a comparison of two queer manga series, one of which seems to be more heartfelt and nuanced when it comes to its issues, the other of which feels more like a “did you know homophobia is no good?” primer for a presumed straight readership.

Transgender People, “Gay Conversion” and “Lesbian Extinction”: What the Data Show – Julia Serano, eloquent as always, rebuts a recent take about how “lesbians are going extinct” because they’re all transitioning into men, with plenty of stats on hand.

Why is Akane Tsunemori a Cop? – an analysis of Psycho-Pass through a police abolitionist lens, examining what exactly the cyberpunk police procedural has to say about police.

If there’s one thing I’ve been enjoying even more than watching The Egg Show every week, it’s reading analysis of the episodes from different people’s perspectives. So here are some of those:

Monsters in Wonder Egg Priority Episodes 1 – 4 – as well as delving into symbolism and flower language, Emily also has this great deep-dive into the social pressures and systems that the monsters represent.

Wonder Egg Priority & Utena – 1. The Prince – Ego and Reward – also part of a series, mapping the similar themes (and inspirations) between the two series. This introductory post takes us into the realm of heroic princes and helpless maidens who need rescuing, and how the egg-gacha system draws the girls into these roles with an empty promise of redemption.

Steve Jones’ episodic reviews have also been super insightful and eloquent, and I’ve very much been awaiting the new one each week.

I want to tell you that I have some fun new hit song stuck in my head this month, but the truth is it’s Nick Lutsko’s remix of Alex Jones rants into a folk song. Not the best lyrics to have on loop in your brain, but the tune really gets you, and Lutsko hasn’t had to work too hard to convey the absurdity of everything this man says.

That’s all folks – take care and I’ll see you soon in another post!

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New Year, New Nonsense: January ’21 Roundup

Here we are, gang: we got through January, which means we’re one big step into a new year. No one can say what it will bring, but all we can do is hope and fight for the best. If nothing else, I finished writing a book (or, well, the book-length draft manuscript that will hopefully become a book when it’s done being part of a PhD) so I’m going to force that into the shape of a good omen for productivity and success for the coming year—and you’re welcome to take it as one as well!

On the blog

Adventures in the Uncanny with Otherside Picnic – how the most eerie monster in this horror series is the setting itself

Queer YA Spotlight: Out of Salem – a recommendation of Hal Schrieve’s heartfelt and harrowing tale of queer “monstrosity”

On AniFem

Winter 2021 Three Episode Check-in – I sat out of premiere reviews this time round to devote my time and brain to above-mentioned book, but I chimed in with my thoughts on Otherside Picnic and Wonder Egg Priority at the three-ep mark!

I also read some books – I’m getting through the Otherside Picnic novels chapter by chapter, week by week to compare them to the anime adaptation; gushing about the prose in The Lost Coast; and over in my When We Were Magic livetweet I extoll the virtues of letting your protagonists be a bit evil. You know, as a treat.

Web content for perusal

We all know Cats was atrocious, and the criticism most often about the bad CGI… but how does this musical fail on a musical level?

I have fond, if bemused, memories of Digimon: The Movie, which were later smoothed out by learning that it was never really meant to be a movie. This video dives into the film’s tangled production history, and how it’s a hugely impressive feat of editing and localisation and a perfect time capsule for anime in the early ’00s.

EX-ARM is the season’s latest meme, but what exactly went down in the production side of things for it to look so abysmal? It’s a wild ride for sure.

This person staged an intricate production of Hamilton in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The amount of time and effort and wrangling that must have gone into this is staggering to me, plus it’s very fun.

Is Lucky Star rewatchable? (some thoughts about how anime curation and viewing has changed) – a retrospective on the beautiful, weird time capsule that is Lucky Star and how the way audiences engage with anime has totally changed since the era that it encapsulates.

Wonder Egg Priority‘s Exquisite Corpse – a look at the visually stunning premiere and how it draws inspiration from the works of Kyoto Animation in its characterisation, visual language, and strong attention to little humanising details… using all those techniques to humanise the surreal and macabre drama at the story’s heart. (For more on the Ikuhara connection that post mentions, you can read this one!)

Did EX-ARM Censor a Same-sex Kiss, or is it Just Completely incompetent? – a neat, short summary of maybe the funniest piece of anime discourse to cross my feed in a while.

Netflix Lands Adaptation of YA Graphic Novel Heartstopper – hot dang!

Laid-Back Camp Season 2, Episodes 1 – 3 – a review of the opening to season two of the world’s cosiest hobby anime, focusing eloquently on the sensory storytelling that makes its world feel so inviting.

And, while I sat out of premiere reviews this time round, the team did an excellent job as always and they’re all available to read here! What series will you be following this season?

This year I’m going to do a new thing where every time I write a roundup post, I’m going to include the song currently stuck in my head. I don’t blog about music but still like sharing what I enjoy, so I figure this will be a fun way to do that!

Take care as always, and I’ll see you on the flipside.

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Merry Crisis: December ’20 Roundup

This is the final roundup of 2020, which makes it tempting to make it something of a retrospective on the year. But if I’m being honest I kind of don’t want to dwell on it: the best way to sum up 2020 is to say that it’s left me more exhausted than I’ve probably ever been, and I would rather spend what remains of my energy writing about literally anything else.

That said, there’s some stuff to celebrate among all that tiredness: I’m bone tired because a bunch of bad things happened and my mental health has rarely been so fragile, but I’m also bone tired because I worked really hard and achieved some really cool stuff this year. I got an article published on The Conversation, which is quite probably the most looked-at any of my writing has been so far—and it garnered a spark of media interest and I got to go on not one, but two radio stations and talk about queer YA for ten minutes. One was local, but one was in Sydney, and people know where Sydney is even if they’re not from around here, so that feels very special to me.

I also got my paper on Every Heart a Doorway published, and got to write for AZE about Alice Oseman’s novels. All of my scholarly (and semi-scholarly) writing has been published open access so far, which means none of it is behind paywalls and anyone can read it, which is super important to me and frankly super cool, so I’m really glad I’ve been able to do this.

Most bonkers of all, I lectured and ran a whole undergrad creative writing unit from July to November. This was a mildly terrifying experience, but also a very rewarding one—and if I can do it and get such good results in weird semi-online semi-pandemic conditions, it bodes pretty well that I can do it again and even better during a “normal” semester, so fingers crossed that I get the opportunity again in 2021!

And, in my final Big Career News, this year I was contacted by the good folks of AniFem, who said they were looking to expand their staff as the site matures ever further, and offered me a place there as a reviewer and editor. As you know, I’ve been writing for AniFem basically since they got off the ground, and it’s been a hugely rewarding and fun space to grow as a feature writer while working with some really cool people. So of course I jumped at the chance, and you’ll find me there doing premiere reviews and stitching away behind the scenes, for the foreseeable future! (…but not next month, because I have a thesis to finish. It turns out that having a busy, harrowing year takes energy and time away from your PhD)

Looking at that list of milestones and achievements really does make for a sense of structure and productivity in a year where it felt like my brain turned into soft cheese. I hope you have some good things–small or large or of whatever size—that you can also hang onto. Maybe you just survived, emotionally and physically, which frankly is an achievement never to be overlooked in the modern day.

Measuring by years and trying to determine if they were good years or bad years has always felt kind of arbitrary, as has looking to the next set of 365 days and making predictions about them. So I’m just going to carry my exhausted self over this pre-painted finish line and keep going, hoping for the best as I do every day but not putting 2021 on any kind of pedestal. I hope that you’ll come with me.

And now, a writing roundup, and in the spirit of the season, a pile of funny reviews of weird Christmas movies.

On the blog

Why Do We Love Coming-of-age Stories So Much? – well, maybe I can’t answer that question for everyone, but here is some musing from me.

Tell Me Why: A Beautiful Game About the Strangeness of Trauma and Memory – a spoiler-free overview where I tell you why I found this quiet, personal little game so meaningful.

A Big Ol’ Pile of Book Recommendations (2020) – a roundup of my favourite books I read this year. See any you liked as well?

Web content

Because what’s more romantic than mail and confusing dialogue?

Because what’s more romantic than hitting a time traveller with your car?

Because what’s more romantic than a romance that was filmed during social distancing protocol?

Because what’s more romantic than a crumbling European economy under the reign of an uncaring monarch?

Because what’s more romantic than… uh… killing Santa and taking on his identity? (contains a musical number!)

That’s going to do us for this one, reader. Onwards and onwards, and I’ll see you in the new year.

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Gay Turbo Hell: November ’20 Roundup

Surprising absolutely no one, I’ll be prefacing this roundup with another “it’s been a weird month!”. I’ll also be keeping things brief, because some combination of doomscrolling, Switch playing, and holding books open at weird angles while I sit improperly on couches (as is customary for my people), has quite possibly inflamed the tendons in my thumbs and wrists, and I am trying to avoid using my hands for a few days. Because, you know, this might as well happen (at least it’s happening after my hard deadlines are done…)

As always, enjoy the content below, both mine and made by others, and take care of yourselves (and your tendons) in these strange times we live in.

On the blog:

In Which Rent-a-Girlfriend Goes Off the Rails – you ever tell the world that a show has potential and then it disappoints you?

Queer YA Spotlight: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me – an anti-love story of sorts about how sometimes the girl of your dreams is an asshole, and true happy endings come from self-respect.

Bonus: do you know I also write about books in more fleeting shortform on Tweeter? Here are some quick review threads for some books I read this month:

Adachi and Shimamura vol. 1 (the introspective tale of two disaffected teens who are terrified to discover they have feelings for one another. I picked it up to compare it to the show, and… at this stage, I might like the book better?)

Somebody Told Me (a harrowing coming-of-age story about how communities can bring great joy, but also foster harmful power structures that go unchecked, featuring the Catholic church and… cosplay)

Under Shifting Stars (twin sisters share a story about grief and about navigating the way the world sees you, and how the right people will love you no matter how “weird” you are)

The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea (a seafaring fantasy of pirates, floating islands, and the horrors of imperialism, featuring The Sea as the ultimate mum)

Web content for your perusal:

Video games are becoming more and more cinematic, but that inspiration is a two-way street.

Quibi was a new streaming service set to take the world by storm, but… well, didn’t. This breaks downs the reasons neatly from a perspective of marketing and content. And man, that content!! Amanda the Jedi has some analysis of said content if you want a deeper primer into just how weird it is.

If you’re fond of food history like I am, you might enjoy the channel Tasting History, where a well-learned and upbeat fellow walks you through recipes from everywhere (and everywhen) from Ancient Rome to Victorian England (accompanied by Pokémon plushies who diligently sit in the background).

You may have seen the internet explode over a development in the show Supernatural. Here is a brief rundown (and some of the best memes)

The Branding Behind Seraphine, the New League of Legends Champion, is Gross – maybe don’t give your fictional character carefully-marketed mental health struggles as a media exercise?

Adventure Time Challenged Cartoons’ “Girly Girl and Other Girl” Stereotypes – a brief history of the tropes that The Girl Character inevitably falls into in children’s cartoons, and how Marceline and Bubblegum shatter those, particularly in their new instalment Obsidian.

The Uncanny Valley of Culture – a game dev writes about their frustrations with how America-centric the English-speaking media market is, and how works that are made or set elsewhere are often expected to dull or change the aspects that may make them “unpalatable” or “foreign” to US audiences.

Thinking Outside the Circle: Accessibility and Education in Witch Hat Atelier – now that I’ve caught up, I can read and recommend Dee’s lovely article about how Witch Hat’s magical narrative explores discrimination in big and small ways, and serves as a critique of rigid and prejudiced educational structures.

The Half-Death of the Black Widow – published a year ago but unfortunately still relevant, particularly given how COVID “killed off” the Black Widow solo movie and served as just one of many awkward and unhappy endings of Natasha.

Let’s wrap it up there, and haul ourselves into December. Take care everyone!

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Weird Autumn: September ’20 Roundup

It’s been another busy month, ensconced in grading, teaching, and wading through research! I had to take two days off to sleep the other week, but apart from that I’m holding it together and powering along!

In other good news, my brain is processing image-heavy media like comics again, so I’ve been consuming a lot of good good gay graphic novels.

On the blog:

The Ship of Theseus, Questions of Identity, and Phos – a philosophical rumination on the weirdness of changing identity and personal growth, with some help from Land of the Lustrous and a borrowed metaphor about deep-fried pineapple.

Queer YA Spotlight: Spellhacker – a celebration of the fun sci-fi-fantasy genre blend that’s all about sticking it to the man and saving the world.

On The Conversation:

Night in the Woods: the video game that captures bittersweet millennial life under COVID-19 – I’m back on The Convo, this time contributing to their Art for Trying Times series by sharing my feels about Night in the Woods and its depiction of millennial ennui.

In Writing From Below

Queer Allegory and Queer Actuality in Every Heart a Doorway – my paper on queer portal fantasy is live and free to read! It’s the longer, written-down version of this presentation from last year.

Other fun links:

Well, the live-action Mulan looks abysmal. But why? Let’s break that down with the help of author and Chinese meme historian Xiran Jay Zhao.

Dom is reading the Twilight books for the first time in the year of our lord 2020, with an open heart and open mind. So… are they as bad as they were said to be, back when hating Twilight was as much of a social movement as liking Twilight?

(Yeah. They’re not great)

“Costume blogger shreds movies for their inaccuracy” is a genre unto its own (and that’s fine) but it’s also cool to hear about what films got right about their historical set dressing and costumery. Hooray for Gentleman Jack!

Genderqueerness Beyond Representation in Land of the Lustrous – Matt delves into the trans themes (resonance, you could say) running through the entirety of Lustrous‘ worldbuilding, story, and characters, making it a very queer show in ways that go beyond the characters who might count as non-binary representation.

Reading Romance While Demisexual – how fictional love stories can be alienating and resonant to demi readers in equal measures, and how friends-to-lovers slow-burn is the pinnacle of romance (a sentiment I can agree with).

How Bloom Into You Defies and Reinforces Yuri Tropes – the tangled love story of Yuu and Touko is groundbreaking in some ways, but also extremely tropey in others, and the exciting mix of these conventions is often overlooked in discussion of the series (I’m cited in this! Absolutely wild!)

Among Us Is Not Just the Game of 2020, It’s 2020: The Game – how the multiplayer hidden role game (unintentionally, but perfectly) reflects the emotional state of the year we’re having, but with the added catharsis of knowing the game will end and knowing that there is a chance to defeat the guy trying to sabotage your home.

WIP: Felix Ever AfterFelix is being adapted into a TV show! Author Kacen Callender muses on the journey to this point, and the pragmatic decisions The Biz needs to make when choosing which titles to adapt.

Horns, Scales, and Feathers: Reclaiming Genderqueer Monstrousness – author Tessa Gratton explores her childhood of identifying with monsters and villains, and how this led her down a rocky road to her own gender identity.

The Futura is Now: Why YA Cover Design Looks the Way It Does – an intriguing breakdown of trends in book cover design across the past fifteen years, from stark stock images to unique illustrations, from fancy serif fonts to cleaner, bolder text that will be easy to spot in online stores.

Next month it’s premiere review season again, so I’m going to put my blogging energy into AniFem rather than making longform posts for here. Those will return in November. Stay tuned for some hot fresh opinions and some exciting stories!

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My Next Life as a Lecturer: All Routes Lead to Zoom!! August ’20 Roundup

It’s been a busy month – and that’s “productive and exciting” busy as opposed to “I feel like I’m about to melt because everything is Entirely Too Much” busy, so that’s a plus! I’ve taken up the torch and am running a creative writing course this semester, making my own adjustments to the pre-existing curriculum set out by a mentor of mine. It’s been daunting but also very fun and rewarding so far! Who’d have thought I’d have a great time spreading the joy of books, huh?

The blog is also back to a regular publishing schedule. Given the looming threat of thesis deadlines and the above-mentioned commitments, I may have to duck back into another hiatus before the year is out, but fingers crossed that’s not the case. In any case, enjoy some links – there are a lot of really cool ones in this roundup!

On the blog:

In Which Adulthood is a Construct and Rent-a-Girlfriend is Compelling – this show has me hooked, for better or worse, and seems to have some things to say about the farce that is adulthood and relationships.

Queer YA Spotlight: Felix Ever After – I’ve foregone my “min-reviews” style of post in favour of giving more space to the novels I really want to talk about and draw attention to, starting with this heart-wrenching and heart-warming tale of love, art, and online subterfuge.

On AniFem:

Worldbuilding a Queer Paradise in My Next Life as a Villainess – Catarina Claes has become something of a Disaster Bi icon, and here I explore how the setup of her show makes space for this (even if it isn’t a queer utopia by all standards we might ask for).

Bonus: my Conversation article about uplifting queer YA has been shared around the web (with full credit) and can now be found on international sites like Mamba Online and Charlotte Pride! My dastardly agenda of getting more people to read books that I like it spreading!

Web content for your perusal:

A costume historian on the accuracy of the costumes in Hamilton – and how the show balances historical accuracy just enough to gets it setting and tone across while still being practical, still conveying character, and still looking rad as heck when people are breakdancing in it.

Hbomb returns and unpacks the potential not met in RWBY, from plot to worldbuilding to character to allegory to misuse of its influences, with an emphasis that what it could have been is always just out of reach.

What is An Aesthetic? It’s whatever you want it to be to feel good about how you look, babey.

Promare, BNA, and the Outrage of the Oppressed – someone at Studio Trigger clearly has a hankering to tell a story About Oppression, and they’re going to keep re-trying it with different fantastical metaphors until they get it right. But what would “getting it right” look like, and how do its current ventures get it wrong?

The Path to Publication: Writing the Queer Black Girls of Cinderella is Dead – Kalynn Bayron writes about the publication journey of her new YA fantasy, and the many racist, homophobic, and “it just doesn’t resonate with a mainstream audience” hurdles along the way.

Idle Animations: Denying the Reaper in Red Dead Redemption 2 – a very poetic and melancholy celebration of the way the game allows (and encourages) you to slow down and take in the beauty and peace of the world in a game that’s also about violence and betrayal, and how these lulls also help you, the emotionally invested player, stave off inevitable tragedy.

In Conversation: Rebecca Sugar and Noelle Stevenson – the creators of Steven Universe and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power talk about their respective roads to success and the exciting turning point we’re at in terms of queer rep in all sorts of fiction.

“College Republicans”: Why White Male Coming-of-Age Films Should Be the Exception – Leah Johnson expresses a long frustration with the tropes of the award-winning narrative of growing up, which, you guessed it, most often features and centres the experiences of white, straight, well-off cis dudes and presents this as “universal”.

Celebrating Queer Joy Through Stories – Auriane Desombre discusses the inspiration behind her upcoming rom-com debut (including a pivotal moment of Queer Realisation starring The Legend of Korra) and the many layers of queer joy woven through her own story.

Take care everyone, and I’ll see you in the next post!

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The Comfy-Pants Freelance Dance: July ’20 Roundup

Good morning. Life is still weird. But I Produced Plenty of Content this month (hurrah for short term goals, I sing, as my thesis frowns at me from across the room)! Check it out below…

On The Conversation

Queer young adult fiction isn’t all gloomy realism. Here are 5 uplifting books to get you started – want to hear about my thesis topic in 800 words or less, and want some tasty book recommendations? Look no further!

If you’re not familiar, The Convo is a site that aims to make Big Academic Ideas accessible and easily readable (which is very much a sentiment I can agree with). I’ve followed it for a long time so it’s super exciting to get something on there.

I also talked about this on the radio! Skip to 46:35 here and 135:06 here to listen to me saying words with my voice!

On Anime Feminist

I joined the team for premiere reviews this season, and it surely was an adventure!

Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! – Episode 1 – in an introvert’s nightmare, a Manic Pixie Nightmare Gremlin of a girl attempts to improve her classmate’s social life. It was Not Great. But the review is entertaining!

Rent-a-Girlfriend – Episode 1 – Fake Dating shenanigans ensue when a mopey college student hires a sweet lady to be his girlfriend for a few hours, only for the act to extend when they’re mistaken for a real couple by an army of gossiping grandmas. Zany, potentially disastrous, and just a little (well, maybe a lot) horny.

Mr Love: Queen’s Choice – Episode 1 – a fast-paced otome adaptation where all the men are the exact same kind of pretty, and one of them spends the whole episode floating in midair. Not the genre for me, but might be your brand of bonkers if you like superpowers-among-us sci-fi.

Content round the web

Ben G. Thomas’ series introduces, and then dives deep into, the art-and-science hybrid field that is “spec zoo”, which involves the design and study of creatures from alternate pasts or possible evolutionary futures. I hadn’t heard of it before this, but it’s truly fascinating.

Crunchyroll’s Tim Lyu takes a (deep, and pretty comprehensive) dive into the evolution of the magical girl genre over time, mapping the development of the tropes we associate so strongly with it today (this chronology does end on something of a downer, though… surely someone’s making a non-parody, non-gritty magical girl show in the 2020s? Can we bring ’em back?)

The world is a strange and stressful place. Slip away from harsh reality for half an hour and watch this model-maker construct beautiful dioramas featuring lovingly carved sea beasties.

Is Demisexuality Just a Word for “People Who Don’t Do Hookups”? – short answer: no! Long answer: this whole article, which provides a pretty nuanced introduction to the orientation.

Art for Trying Times: How a Philosopher Found Solace Playing Red Dead Redemption 2 – an exploration of the game’s bittersweet melancholy, and its thematic undercurrents about the persistence of memory (see, The Conversation’s great. If you frame it academically, they even let you talk about your Cowboy Feels).

Magical Girls as Metaphor: Why Coded Queer Narratives Still Have Value – much of the conversation around queer fiction can centre on direct representation, but there is still power in narratives that may not be explicit, but resonate with a LGBTQIA+ audience in their themes and structures.

And of course, do read the rest of the premiere reviews! The pickings are a little slim this season, but the team has put out some great work.

That wraps us up for now—take care, everyone!

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May ’20 Roundup (and the “Oh My God I Have So Much Writing to Do” Hiatus)

Emiya Menu (13)

In the words of one of the great commentators of our times, “everything happens so much”. I hate to do it, but between research, thesis writing, Exciting Career Stuff, and, well… [gestures to the world at large] my queue of blog articles has run dry, and I think it’s sensible that I take a break and come back fresh with my brain switched on, rather than trying to fill the space with writing that may not be that good. The plan at current is to take June off and return in July, but we shall see how things pan out. I will, of course, still be saying words into the void over on Twitter.

Stay safe out there, everyone, and take care of yourselves and of each other. I know I sign off with some variation of that every time, but it feels more pressing than ever.

On the blog this month

Fate, a Retelling About Retellings (and Stickin’ It To the System) – a dive into metaphor, magic, and metallurgy starring Fate/Stay Night‘s protagonist Shirou, and how his personal arc spearheads a story about disrupting old patterns and upending harmful traditions.

The Power of Magic and Whimsy in Queer Stories – a musing on the importance of quieter, more personal fantasy tales that let their queer protagonists just be, starring the wonderful Euphoria Kids.

Bonus academia!

Opalised Storytelling: A Review of A Fixed Place: The Long and Short of Story – TEXT reached out to me to review a new collection of poetry and short stories! It’s a little different from what I usually read, but I enjoyed it, and I think I pulled together and made it sound like I knew what I was talking about in the paper.

Bonus announcements!

I’m now officially listed as a contributions editor for AniFem! The site has been an amazing place to work with for the past three years (!) and I’m very much looking forward to being part of the moving wheels behind the scenes.

Web content

Yet another great digital authors’ panel, this one about the blending of magic and queer community in YA fantasy – featuring many books I really want to read!

Dom’s Lost in Adaptation series continues to be a delight, this time providing a charming and thoughtful dive into the 1996 Pride and Prejudice miniseries (with, as always, adequate amounts of costume skits alongside the literary analysis).

Trans Representation in YA Fiction is Changing, But How Much? – stats, author interviews, and personal stories build a picture of the current state of trans rep in young adult novels.

Allegory, Allegorier, Allegoriest: Visual Storytelling and Empathy in Revolutionary Girl Utena – Utena is full of notoriously bizarre spectacle, but the core of the stylistic narrative is empathy and love, and going in/rewatching with that in mind will give you a keener eye for the metaphors at play.

Joan of Arc, for Fascists and Feminists – good ol’ Jeanne d’Arc is one of the most fascinating cases, I think, of a historical character that’s consistently reinterpreted for the needs of the present (from medieval propaganda to 21st century mobile games), and this piece touches on the use of her image for two very different political perspectives.

How The Matrix Universalized a Trans Experience – and Helped Me Accept My Own – a post from last year looking at the trans themes woven into the first Matrix movie, always clear but only more prescient after the directors both came out.

The Rise of Magical Realism in Young Adult Fiction – how the hard-to-classify-but-always-very-cool genre of magical realism is appearing more and more in YA, and why those motifs of liminality and strangeness-yet-familiarity might uniquely suit that demographic.

In Video Game Stories, It’s Often Sidequests That Are the Most Meaningful – those quirky little character-focused missions where you step off the path of your Heroic Destiny to take a pause and help people have a lot of emotional reward, to the player and to the overall story.

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And here, for the first time in absolutely ages, is a podcast rec! You’re Dead To Me is a BBC-run (and crisply British) history show in which a historian and a comedian take a moderated journey together through a specialist topic, sometimes focused on an individual like Eleanor of Aquitaine, sometimes looking at a broader concept like The Ancient Olympics. Very fun and informative, with a nice touch of that Horrible Histories energy (the host is one of their writers, after all).

Everyone stay safe (as always, but with even more gusto than usual) and I’ll see you all in a while!

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